Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

Hi, my name is Mandy and I’m REALLY late to the pumpkin game. I had to squeeze it in before Thanksgiving was over because pumpkin will then be a thing of the past and we’ll be bombarded with all things Christmas and minty. Truth is, I’ve actually created a handful of pumpkin goodies this season, but obviously haven’t been very good at sharing them here – I guess I’ll be prepared for next autumn though! I’m a pro at having fun and making a mess in the kitchen, but not so good at writing down measurements, photographing, and sitting down to write a how-to post. I’m making an early resolution for next year to be better about that. Heck, since Willow is so good with writing and spelling these days, maybe she can type them up for me 😉

(super quick…I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for all of your lovely comments, messages, and emails concerning my previous post. You guys are the BEST!)

The idea for this recipe came to me while falling asleep one night…like many ideas. Luckily I jotted things down before I passed out. Raise your hand if that’s happened to you! You say to yourself, “oh, I’ll remember it” and then wake up to everything all fuzzy. Good news is that this only took two trials to make it a reality! In the past, I had always made my crusts with either walnuts, almonds, or a combo of both. The idea that came to mind was for a buttery, almost cookie-like crust to be paired with a creamy, tangy filling. And how do you achieve a buttery richness without actual butter or oil??? PECANS!! And the addition of coconut butter just takes it over the edge. Baking the crust also helps bring out the butteriness and gives a nice slightly crispy texture.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH PECAN COOKIE CRUST

{vegan, grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free}

WHAT YOU NEED:

For the crust:

  • 2 cups raw pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons softened coconut butter*
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt (optional)

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked for 4 hours)
  • 1/2 cup COYO plain yogurt**
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons softened coconut butter*
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch Himalayan salt (optional)

*NOT coconut oil. To soften the butter, you can either place the jar in a bowl of hot water or gently warm some in the oven while preheating.

**I have not tried this with any other coconut yogurt. I LOVE COYO because they don’t add sweetener, gums, citric acid, or natural flavors. I also love how thick their yogurt is! If you do use a different brand, you might need to add a little more cashews.

HOW TO:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add the pecans into a food processor and pulse into fine pieces. Next add the remaining crust ingredients and pulse until a crust-like texture is formed (should stick together when you squeeze it with your fingers). If it doesn’t seem to hold together, then add a little more softened coconut butter.
  3. Press the crust into the bottom of a springform pan until evenly spread out and gently pierce with a fork all over. I used this 7″ pan. You can use muffin/tart tins if you don’t have a springform pan*
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the crust is golden. If using muffin tins, check at the 5 minute mark. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. While the crust is cooling, add all of your filling ingredients into a high-speed blender and mix until smooth. You can adjust the sweetness level (or salt) if desired. Once the crust is cooled, pour the filling over it and smooth out with a spatula. I also gently tap the pan against the counter to release any bubbles.
  6. Transfer the cheesecake to the freezer to chill for about 6-8 hours (best overnight). Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then slice and enjoy! Great topped with cinnamon, coconut whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer.

*If using muffin tins, use a strip of parchment paper in each cup before pressing in the crust. This will make for easier removal once the cheesecake is set (see photo below).

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

For blogging purposes, I used most of the crust in my 7″ springform pan and the remaining to make 12 mini tarts. If you do use a springform pan, I probably wouldn’t go any bigger than a 9″ because it would be a fairly thin cheesecake (crust and filling). Had I used the full recipe in my 7″ springform pan, there would be a generous layer of crust and thicker filling.

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

And here’s what the little tarts look like…I went heavier on the crust with these because I LOVE crust ❤

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

I have another recipe coming (hopefully sooner than later) using this crust and it may or may not involve chocolate…stay tuned.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to those celebrating!

Thanks for stopping by!

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

If you open our refrigerator, you’re bound to find jars filled with just about every variety of nut (and seed). Not only are they packed with protein, but they also make excellent milks, cheeses, desserts and much more. I was experimenting with a new cookie recipe and was feeling a bit lazy…rather than taking the time to roll them into individual balls, I chose to just spread the dough into a baking dish and call it a day. Simple, buttery and another way to get a chocolate fix.

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

 

I had the best little helper assisting me through each trial of these…I think she enjoyed sneaking the chocolate chips the best.

DSCN2128

NUTTY COOKIE BARS: {gluten-free, oil-free, soy-free, vegan}

Yields 8 large bars or 16 smaller bars

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup blanched almond flour*
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut flour**
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt (omit if your nut/seed butter contains salt)
  • One flax egg (1 Tablespoon ground flax + 3 Tablespoons warm water)
  • 1 cup nut/seed butter (I did half peanut butter, half raw tahini)
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (or more) Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used raw pecans and walnuts)

*We buy a 3-pound bag from Costco for an awesome deal.

**I used left over pulp from making hazelnut milk and dried it in my dehydrator, then ground it in a nut grinder.

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

All spread out and ready to bake!

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Prepare your flax egg in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to thicken.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (except chocolate chips and nuts). Use the whisk or spatula to break up any clumps from the almond flour.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the nut/seed butter, maple syrup, vanilla and flax egg until smooth.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until well combined (no visible flour). Then fold in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
  6. Spread the mixture out into a lightly greased (or can use parchment paper) 8×8 baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are golden. Remember, my oven requires extra baking, so times will vary depending on your oven.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the baking dish. If you can be patient enough, I recommend allowing them to cool completely to make for easier cutting. Cut into bars and enjoy!
  8. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

 

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

 

RECIPE: Nutty Cookie Bars

Did I mention that they’re toddler approved?

Thanks for stopping by!

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

How many of you actually love your job? I’m talking passionate, happy, excited and motivated by the life you’ve chosen. Sadly, I don’t know too many people who would raise their hands. The last paying job (early 2010) I had just about broke me. I was at an all-time low – physically falling apart with numerous ailments, mentally and emotionally unwell and I remember day dreaming about things I wish I could be doing. I felt defeated. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? I promise, this story has a happy ending…obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this, right? After connecting the dots and realizing that my job was the cause of my unhappiness, I gave my notice and quit. I needed to take control of my life, health and well-being, as well as find my true passion…my calling. I brainstormed all sorts of ideas – everything from homemade jewelry to opening some sort of vegan, gluten-free bakery or food cart. So, I started experimenting in the kitchen with homemade donut recipes. I spent a couple of months running various trials and scribbled my creations down in an old notebook which later got lost during one of our moves. Luckily (and I owe thanks to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book) I found a few of my recipes from almost six years ago!

As for finding my true passion or calling, I’m living my dream now. Being a stay-at-home mom and being able to have fun with my hobbies (recipe creating and product making) is more than I could ask for. I actually wake up in the morning excited for what the day holds, for what adventure awaits. I feel truly blessed.

I’ve spent the last few weeks refining these recipes – adjusting the ingredients to my current way of eating and making them even “healthier” than they were originally. In the last few weeks I have gone through MANY trials and attempted to make these oil-free, but I gotta tell you, this is an instance where a little oil takes it from: “It’s OK” to “Whoa. This. Is. Amazing!”  I am SO excited to share this first donut recipe with you!

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

BAKED COCONUT PECAN MINI DONUTS: {vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free}

Makes 24 mini donuts

Soft, cake-y, sweet and almost melt in your mouth delicious! The combination of ground pecans and coconut oil create a buttery treat.

What you Need:

Mini Donut Pan(s)

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

All of the ingredients needed. Our kitchen table is always covered with large brown paper so we can doodle while we sit together…it’s also a great distraction for Willow while she waits for meals.

{DRY}

  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup finely ground raw pecans (almost flour-like, not butter)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

{WET}

  • Flax “egg” (1 Tablespoon ground flax + 3 Tablespoons filtered water)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 rounded Tablespoons raw coconut oil (no need to melt)

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

I almost didn’t post this photo because of how messy it looks, but I felt it was important to show the process – it doesn’t need to be perfect.

How To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit & lightly grease your donut pan(s) with either coconut oil or avocado oil.
  2. In a small dish, stir together the ingredients for the flax “egg” and let it sit for five minutes.
  3. Measure out your milk, ACV and vanilla; add it to a large mixing bowl (preferably to a stand-up mixer or you can use a handheld mixer). Add in the coconut oil and flax “egg,” then mix until well combined.
  4. Next, add in all of the dry ingredients – works best if you sift your flour, sugar and finely ground pecans, but my sifter recently broke…that’s what happens when a three-year-old plays with your kitchen stuff!  Mix until just combined (be careful not to over mix). It will be a somewhat sticky, pudding-like consistency.
  5. Using a piping bag or tablespoon, fill each donut “cup” 1/2 – 2/3 full – do not fill to the brim as they will expand as they bake. Bake for 15-19 minutes. They should spring back to the touch and your tester should come back clean (no wet batter).
  6. Remove from the oven and allow the donuts to rest in the pan for five minutes before removing.
  7. You can enjoy as is OR indulge and coat them in this delicious Cinnamon-Maple Sugar mixture (see below).
  8. As for leftovers, DO NOT store in a plastic container (such as Tupperware or a Ziploc bag) otherwise they will get “wet” and sticky. They’re actually best kept on the cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper or wax paper draped over them loosely. Best eaten within the first 2-3 days.

***UPDATE*** For an oil-free version, simply omit the coconut oil and replace with coconut milk (I used full fat) – so, 3 Tablespoons of coconut milk. You might have to adjust the baking time, but start with the suggested time above.

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

You can see which donut “cups” I overfilled! Ha! That’s OK, they got eaten pretty fast!

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

A couple of the donuts before being tossed in the Cinnamon-Maple Sugar mix.

CINNAMON-MAPLE SUGAR:

If you’ve never had maple sugar before, you are missing out! We used fresh maple sugar from Graham Farms Maple in Vermont and I’m not kidding when I say, it is the BEST I’ve ever had. Rich, sweet and oh so maple-y. The smell is absolutely intoxicating. Pure heaven. If you don’t have access to maple sugar, you can substitute it with either coconut sugar or regular sugar, but I recommend whirling it through a spice grinder or coffee grinder to get it a bit finer. I’m sure you could use brown sugar too.

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

A close up of the maple sugar.

  • 3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Ceylon Cinnamon

Measure out the maple sugar and cinnamon – then add it to a medium-large Ziploc bag. After the five minutes of setting in pan, remove the donuts and shake them in the cinnamon/sugar mix. I only had a small bag, so I did a couple at a time.

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

My little helper and taste tester patiently waiting for a donut!

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

RECIPE: Baked Coconut Pecan Mini Donuts with Cinnamon-Maple Sugar

Thanks for stopping by!

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s the season of all things PUMPKIN!!! My absolute favorite time of year. Crisp air, leaves changing, apples galore and cozy sweaters. And BAKING! After a few months of very limited oven use, we make the switch to roasted veggies, potatoes and LOTS of baked goods…such as cookies. I had this vision in my head of a pumpkin molasses cookie and as soon as the weather cooled down, I started running trials. I cooked up some dried garbanzo beans and saved some brine for an “egg” – used applesauce, did an oil-free batch, played with flours and sweeteners. The first batch turned out way too cake-y for my liking, but got the thumbs up from our toughest critic…Willow. Second batch was still too cake-y and a bit too much molasses – yes, I said too much molasses. Third and fourth trials got closer, but just didn’t grab me. Let me share that through all of the mess up trials, Willow gave each one a thumbs up…clearly in it for the chocolate chips. Fifth batch was a giant win. A slightly crisp initial bite with a soft, chewy center. Exactly what I was looking for! I knew it was the best batch yet when Willow’s eyes lit up with the first bite and asked for a second one when the first cookie wasn’t even half eaten.

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before I dive into the recipe, I have to share one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. A couple of years ago, my parents bought us this amazing little Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder. Since this came into our lives, we buy whole spices and grind the seeds ourselves, along with making a lot of our own flours. Literally within seconds you can turn rolled oats into oat flour. Yes, a Vitamix can do the same thing, but this is easier clean up and faster.

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homemade oat flour

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: {gluten-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan}

Yields 16 cookies (more or less depending on how big you make them)

What you need:

DRY:

  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground raw pecans (flour-like; be careful not to grind too long, it will turn into a butter)
  • 4 TBSP raw coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

WET:

  • 3 TBSP pumpkin puree
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil (or coconut oil, melted)
  • 1/2 TBSP molasses (1 TBSP for molasses lovers)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except chocolate chips). Whisk until incorporated and if you need to, use your fingers or the back of a spatula to break up the pecan clumps.
  3. In a small-med bowl, combine the wet ingredients until smooth.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients bowl. Stir until evenly incorporated, no signs of dry “flour.” Then fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be slightly sticky
  5. Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, form small balls. My cookie scoop was a bit smaller than a tablespoon measure. Place them on the baking sheet and flatten with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. You can press in extra chocolate chips to each cookie at this time, if you’d like.
  6. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until the cookies no longer look sticky/wet and can easily be removed from the baking sheet without sticking.They’ll be slightly golden brown. If you’re looking for a super crispy cookie, bake them for a few minutes longer, but keep a close eye on them so as not to burn them. Our oven is awful and we have to always cook/bake things far longer than called for. I baked a trial for 22 minutes and they turned out crispy inside and out. For a softer/chewier center, stick to the initial baking time.
  7. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and ENJOY!

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had to distract Willow with some bad dancing and singing to allow the cookies to cool a bit. This kid is a chocoholic, so patience doesn’t come easy. Be glad that there weren’t any photos to document that portion of our baking session.

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are best eaten the first day or two, which is pretty easy to do! If you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container (preferably a cookie tin).

While we were waiting for the cookies to bake, Willow asked to play around with the camera…here’s a small collage – I picked my favorites from the 50 that she took! I’m rather impressed that she managed to get some selfies in there.

willow pics

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?!

RECIPE: Toffee Granola

I know. Another toffee themed recipe. BUT before you say anything, I had no plans to post another recipe using the toffee sauce, that was until the lovely @bondsbeach used it to make granola! As soon as I saw that, I had to hop into the kitchen and experiment for myself. It took a few trials to get the flavor and consistency down, but the end result is buttery, crunchy and surprisingly, not overly sweet! So, thank you @bondsbeach for the creative inspiration!!

TOFFEE GRANOLA: {gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan, refined sugar-free}

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP raw tahini
  • 1 TBSP raw coconut nectar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 3 TBSP water
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil or grapeseed oil*
  • 4 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dairy free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini chips)
  • 1/2 cup raw pecan halves & pieces**
  • 2 TBSP raw hemp seeds (optional)

*In my first trial I used all water, but found that it worked best with 1 TBSP of avocado oil. We’ve also been incorporating more avocado and/or coconut oil into Willow’s diet at the recommendation of our naturopath…so I’m learning to add a little more fats/oils into our meals. For those looking for a completely oil-free recipe, you can add an extra tablespoon of water or add a tablespoon of maple syrup, but know that the oil works really well in this case.

**For a nut-free version, you can replace the pecan pieces for sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. I personally preferred the buttery flavor that the pecans brought and found that the sunflower seeds brought a little bitterness to the granola. You can also omit the nuts/seeds all together.

toffee granola

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the toffee sauce ingredients > coconut sugar, tahini, coconut nectar, vanilla, salt, water and oil. Mix until smooth – should take 2-3 minutes to get it all incorporated. You can also blend the ingredients until smooth.
  3. Next add in the oats, chocolate chips, pecan pieces and hemp seeds. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until well combined and evenly coated.
  4. Spread the mixture onto your baking sheet into an even layer. If you don’t have a large baking sheet, you can divide this into two sheets.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, flipping/stirring halfway through. You’re looking for a “dry” golden color.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet.
  7. Allow the granola to cool completely before storing in airtight containers. I store mine in glass Mason jars.

You can enjoy this with milk, sprinkle it on yogurt or smoothie bowls and use it as a topping for ice cream.

toffee granola2

toffee granola3

This concludes the toffee sauce recipes…I promise!

Thanks for stopping by!